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Here is a little quiz to see what you know about angels. All the answers are true/false and you can find out the answers tomorrow, right here:

1)      The most reliable source about angels is Jewish folklore. 

2)      The word “angel” literally means  a woman with wings.

3)      Angels are created.

4)      Angels are ministering spirits to serve us.

5)      Human beings can “earn their wings” and become angels.

6)      Angels are dumb.

7)      There are ranks of angels, kind of like in the army.

8)      Lucifer, or the devil, is a fallen angel.

9)      We are to pray to angels because they are heavenly beings.

10)  There was war in heaven.

11)  Angels usually provoke fear in people.

12)  This is the best quiz on angels I have ever taken!

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Artwork, such as this statue from St. Michael’s Church, Hamburg, Germany, portrays St. Michael casting out Lucifer, aka Satan, Father of lies, Devil etc., as recorded in Revelation 12: 7-12. Artists have added the Cross to the Scripture passage, though not recorded in Holy Writ in the Revelation passage. Yet, it is true: by Christ’s death and resurrection, the devil is put to flight in the Lord’s mercy toward us sinners.

Prayer of the Day

Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

About St. Michael and All Angels:    The name of the archangel St. Michael means “Who is like God?” Michael is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (12:1), as well as in Jude (v. 9) and Revelation (12:7). Daniel portrays Michael as the angelic helper of Israel who leads the battle against the forces of evil. In Revelation, Michael and his angels fight against and defeat Satan and the evil angels, driving them from heaven. Their victory is made possible by Christ’s own victory over Satan in His death and resurrection, a victory announced by the voice in heaven: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Revelation 12:10). Michael is often associated with Gabriel and Raphael, the other chief angels or archangels who surround the throne of God. Tradition names Michael as the patron and protector of the Church, especially as the protector of Christians at the hour of death. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

LessonsDaniel 10: 10-14  Psalm 91   Revelation 12: 7-12  St. Matthew 18: 1-11 or St. Luke 10: 17-20

Reflection on Revelation 19:   The angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

and

Hebrews 1: 14: Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

God’s Word is clear.   The Greek word for “angel”, literally means “messenger”.  In many icons, John the Baptist is portrayed with wings to remind us that John as the angels brought God’s Word to people on earth. Yet when angels bring God’s Word to mortals, there is knee-knocking fear because they reflect the glory of God.  This is why Gabriel first had to say to Mary, Fear not.  

The Scripture is equally clear:  angels are humble.  As it is written in Revelation 19, when John wants to worship the angel, the angel bluntly states, “You must not do that!”  Angels and saints in heaven are not to be worshiped, that is, prayed to and invoked, as too many churches do to this day.  I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God. Prayer is organically part of worship.  Since an angel did not want worship and prayer from John, since only the Lord is to be so worshiped and invoked in prayer,  then it would follow that the saints in heaven do not and should not be named in prayer.  Yet, the saints  as the angels are in the communion  around the throne of the Lamb  and as a whole, do pray for us, His Church, and those prayers are compared with incense ascending to the Lord, cf.  Revelation 5:8,Revelation 8:3,Revelation 8:4.   

It is also clear from the Bible:  Angels hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Further, we read in Hebrews angels serve us mortals.  Mortals, who by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, received through faith in the work of the Holy Spirit, are inheritors of salvation. Angels  are luminous servants and messengers of the Most High, are our fellow servants holding to the  witness of Christ!  In Greek, “Gospel” literally means  good message, the Gospel of Christ Jesus:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. Revelation 14: 6

We are not alone: I think when popular articles about UFOs and ETs, begin with, “we are not alone”, it is strange and sad science fiction comfort that is sought:  we are not alone in the vast universe. But the Lord has told us this for  centuries, the millenia:  we are not alone. This is God’s own truth.  His angels keep us safe and watch over us, serving us frail mortals.  The angels know they did not die for sinners.  The angels saw what happened when one of their own wanted to be worshiped as God, that is, Lucifer (literally, light bearer).  The angels know that God’s own Son did not die and rise for them, but for the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve, who fancy themselves as ‘stars’, wanting to be “like God”, following the angel hosts’ fallen brother’s lie (see Genesis 3). Again, the name  Michael means,  “Who is like God?”  Answer: not Michael, but the Son of Joseph, the Son of God: Jesus. The angels know they can not bring another Gospel (see Galatians 1:8), but they give witness to the Gospel of the Son’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, the “eternal Gospel”,  for us all to see and come to faith, see Revelation 14:6.

We are not alone. This is comfort to the Lord’s redeemed people that God is One, yet the Lord Himself is not alone.  “Glorious is God with His angels and saints, O Come, let us worship Him” (invitatory for daily prayer).  The Lord, the blessed and holy Trinity, wants His kingdom filled with the redeemed.  Every Holy Communion the pastor prays with the Congregation from the liturgy the Sanctus, the thrice-holy:   The Biblical insight is that when we tally how many were at worship on a given Sunday, we can not count, as the Congregation sings in the Sanctus (holy):

Pastor:   ” with angels and archangels and all the company heaven, lauding and magnifying Thy Holy Name, ever more praising Thee and saying,

Congregation: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, LORD GOD OF SABOATH , HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE FULL OF THY GLORY. HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST.” (part of the prefaces in the Divine Service).

We are not alone, we are baptized into the  Holy Communion, not by an angel from heaven, but from one of the Lord’s messengers, your pastor, in the  communion of the whole Church on earth and angels and archangels and  all the saints in heaven!

A blessed Feast Day to all!

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2014-11-03 07.51.00

All Saints Sunday, 2014: I am presiding at the Altar, the Preacher was Pr. Keith Beasley of our sponsoring Congregation, Good Shepherd, Roanoke, VA

Today is the 5th anniversary of  Concordia Lutheran Mission here in Rockbridge County.   On the Page on the top, you can read the history. The header photo is about five years ago, when were meeting at the Library.  Some of the folks pictured, moved, went to college and others have joined since that photo.

The first Divine Service was at Grace Presbyterian Church, August 28th, the Commemoration of St. Augustine (We did not plan for that day because it is was the commemoration of St. Augustine, but it is appropos since his faithful teaching influenced Martin Luther!)   We had left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation in Lexington, of which I had been pastor. For several months many of us sojourned down to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church/Roanoke.  In conversation with Good Shepherd’s Shepherd, Rev. Keith Beasley, we realized the need for a mission in Rockbridge County. Pr. Beasley and Vicar James Prothro presided and preached at that first service and did so until I was recognized as a pastor in the Synod. Good Shepherd/Roanoke became our sponsoring congregation. Within a year I was accepted as a pastor awaiting call, by a colloquy committee of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  We left Grace Presbyterian, as they were moving, and we began worshiping in the Lexington Main Library, in their community room.  One year ago, we found out about a good rental property in the other main town in Rockbridge County, Buena Vista and this is where the Mission is now located.

We have not grown exponentially, yet, we have some new members.  In many ways, as my wife pointed out, after losing my full-time income as a pastor, leaving a church body, thinking about the prospect of selling our house, and a mission that is still tenuous, never the less, we have our house and the House of the Lord, His mission is still here after five years.  But by the grace of God, go we! 

We  left a denomination purporting to be church.  We left because of it’s war against the Word of God. It rejected marriage, marriage between man and woman alone.  In St. Augustine’s day, Rome fell and before that, Nero fiddled on his violin while Rome burned.  While our Romes burn today, churches have fiddled around with the Word of God.  Many churches look  nice on the outside but as the Lord said about the religious leadership of His time, they are whitened sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones full of decay and rot.  It is profoundly sad.  Am I overstating the case?  I do not think so. The gates of hell are doing their best, but they have not prevailed.  Many, including myself, have chronicled the central collapse of Biblical Scriptures in so many areas of the Church. Now, one should not lightly and unadvisedly leave a church body.  By God’s grace alone,  I do not think we did. 

So!  Are we in the promised land?  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod?  When I had my last interview for acceptance as a pastor into The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at the Synod’s International Center outside of St. Louis, Missouri, one of my three interviewers was a district president who warned me, “You know the Missouri Synod has problems and it’s not perfect.” I smiled and said, “If it were perfect, that would mean the Lord has come with His kingdom and I don’t think He has and there would be no interview”  They all smiled or chuckled.  The district president’s caution was a good one.  In Christ, he could admit sin because of our Savior. I do not think I could ever hear that from some other liberal protestant church bodies and their ecclesiacrats confessing their church is wrong, they can’t right now as they defend falsehood. The district president knows our church body is not perfect but it trusts and believes in the whole Word of God, the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions which teach, preach and confess the 6th Commandment and it’s meaning.   The district president, a pastor,  is obviously no Pharisee. Thank our Lord for His grace for us all!

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in the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received. Bach Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

On this day in 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach died, thus it is for the saints in Christ, a “heavenly birthday”. 

When I was at  Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee (now Concordia University, Mequon Wisconsin), I took the one credit course on Lutheran Hymnody.   Professor “Ollie” Ruprecht pointed out that Bach’s library had around 80 volumes in it. Prof. Rupprecht pointed out that books were quite expensive and about 60  of those volumes were books of orthodox Lutheran theology.  

Orthodox Lutheran theology is all about proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.  And so did Bach through music.  One of Bach’s most marked set of volumes was Abraham Calov’s 3 book set of Luther’s Bible, with Calov’s commentary.  Bach, spending a large part of a year’s salary, purchased a 7 volume edition of Luther’s writings which Calov has based his commentary.  Calov wrote regarding Luther:

“It hinders a preacher greatly if he wants to look around and concern himself with what people want to hear and not hear.”

Bach double-marked that sentence for emphasis (Evening in the Palace of  Reason by James R. Gaines). That sentence sums up Bach’s understanding of music.  He would mark on his scores AMG, ad mairorem Dei, to the greater glory of God. He has been called, after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 5th evangelist.  In his day, he was not known beyond Germany. After his death,  his music was rediscovered.  His output for 27 years in Leipzig for 4 churches was massive.  Bach’s music still preaches.

Bach’s texts usually were the Bible and he put the Scripture to music. In his day, the Enlightenment, ‘modern’ music was suppose to reflect how the composer felt and what the people wanted to hear.  Sound familiar?  On NPR, they will have a segment that I call OMS, the obscure musical segment when the artist intros his/her work and tells us what “he is trying to do”, or what he was feeling at the time of composition.  Not for J. S. Bach:  it was to proclaim the Gospel. Bach did not listen to what people wanted, but what he heard was the Lord’s commands and promise fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and he knew the Lord’s second best gift, music.  “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise” (Luther).   Bach’s talent at the organ and as a composer was wanted by the Church and he was not popular in the courts of public taste, but being popular in the world is never the goal, Christ is.

Only two of Bach’s works were ever published in his life time. In the age of the Enlightenment, Bach was considered a ‘has-been’ and not well-received. The Word of the Lord endures forever and the Lord gave Johann a gift that he did use to His greater glory  and the joy of the Church, which is always,  “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring”.

In an episode of M*A*S*H, Radar falls for a nurse who is quite cultured and loves classical music.  He goes to Hawkeye and Trapper for lessons in classical music.  Hawkeye gives Radar the names of some composers and then says, “…then if she mentions Bach, just say, ‘Ahhh, Bach’”. We also can say, Ahhh, Bach! 

Thank-you Lord for Bach and all church organists, choir directors, choirs and musicians who also through music, especially Bach’s, proclaim the eternal Gospel.

Listen to Bach’s popular chorale Cantata 147,  Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

 

 

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Lutheran Pastor and Professor Hermann Sasse observed that in the first two centuries of the Church, the pagan world had great and mighty religious rites, but compared to the Church, her rites were and are so simple:   bread, wine, water and through it all the Word of God and the crucified and Risen Christ.  Truly, what we  actually are, that is,  who we are is Who’s we are. It’s not scary and we don’t have to be scary.  Maybe it shows from Whom comes great a grace, so great a salvation.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  (2 Corinthians 4:6-8 English Standard Version)

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The Sundays during the Pentecost cycle develop three great themes.

  1. The first is Baptism and its graces. We are baptized and grounded in the graces of Baptism. Every Sunday is a reminder of Baptism and a small Easter.
  2. The second theme is preparation for the second advent of the Lord. It is treated in detail on the final Sundays of the season.
  3. The remaining theme, the burden of the Sundays midway after Pentecost, may be summarized as the conflict between the two camps. Although we are placed in the kingdom of God, we remain surrounded by the kingdom of the world. Our souls are laboring under Adam’s wretched legacy and waver continually to and fro between two allegiances.

By these three great themes the liturgy covers the whole range of Christian life. In Baptism the precious treasure of the Spirit was conferred. Through it we are God’s children and may call God Father. Through it we have become temples of the Holy Spirit, heirs and brothers of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Baptism has not translated us to a paradise without toil or trouble. Rather, we are sent out into a troubled world to work and struggle. We must guard the holy land of our souls against hostile attack. We must learn to know and conquer the enemy, and such is the task that will continue until we have taken our final breaths.

The Church serves as both the heroine, who teaches us the art of warfare, and our strong fortress and shield in the conflict. Through Holy Communion, she bestows aid that repeatedly frees the soul from the entanglements of temptation. How does she do this? Courage and strength and perseverance flow from the Word of God in the Service of the Word, and they flow in even fuller measure from Holy Communion. Of ourselves we are helpless creatures, wholly unable to withstand the attack, but in Holy commuion Another battles for us.  The Mightier, Christ, vanquishes the mighty.  By means of Holy Communion, we are enrolled in our  Captain’s forces.  And thus Christ’s battle becomes our battle and His triumph our triumph, and His wondrous strength renders us invincible.

(From  The Church’s Year of Grace by Fr. Pius Parsch-May 18, 1884 – March 11, 1954, quoted in The Treasury of Daily Prayer for 15 June)

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Cyril (826-69) and Methodius (c. 815-85) were brothers who came from a Greek family in Thessalonica. The younger brother took the name “Cyril” when he became a monk in 868. After ordination, Cyril became librarian at the church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople. In 862 the brothers were sent by the emperor as missionaries to what is now the Czech republic, where they taught in the native Slavic tongue. Cyril invented the alphabet today know today as “Cyrillic,” which provided a written language for the liturgy and Scriptures for the Slavic peoples. This use of the vernacular established an important principle for evangelical missions.

In an article in the May/June 2013 edition of Touchstone, “The Thessalonian Brothers:  The Legacy of the Mission of Cyril and Methodius 1,150 Years Later”, on the way to Rome in 867, the brothers stopped in Venice,

“…to debate Western clerics who insisted on the tradition of using only Hebrew, Greek, and Latin for worship, which the Slavonic sources deride as the “trilingual heresy” or “Pilatian heresy” (after Pilate’s use of those three languages for the sign on Christ’s cross (John 19:20) ).  (Cyril) is said to have responded with St. Paul’s words:  “that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord” (Phil. 2: 11)  

Further, it is written in Revelation 14: 6,

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 

There are 5 other references in Revelation to “languages” or “tongues”.  Cyril and Methodius translated the Bible for the Slavic people to read it.  Constantine (“Cyril”) was quited talented.  He became a libarian, then a professor of philosophy, then a monk and  eventually a missionary.  Methodius was a ruler of a Slavic province, then a contemplative monk and then with his brother Cyril a missionary.  The two missionary brothers were sent to Moravia where they began to translate invented the alphabet that bears Cyril’s name to this day:  Cyrillic and in the map below you can see how extenstive their alphabet was used.

Many worry that when the Bible is translated something is “lost in translation”, but that is not necessarily trueas we see in history the “eternal Gosple” proclaimed to “those who dwell on earth”.  The “eternal Gospel” has been translated into most of the languages on all the continents of earth.  The Word of God is translated so  we are “translated”, changed by the Gospel of grace for sinners through Jesus Christ our Lord.  We thank the Lord for ministry of Cyril and Methodius and for all missionaries and Bible translators.

The countries that use the Cyrillic alphabet officially and those who use it as a secondary language.

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